07/03/2010 07:31 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Defending Michael Steele From War-Hungry RNC Members & Pentagon-Hugging Dems


Michael Steele is right on Afghanistan.

The Republican National Committee Chairman, who is receiving a heap of scorn by war-hungry members of his party and by Democrats who want to puff up and act like the real defenders of the Pentagon faith, called the conflict in Afghanistan "a war of Obama's choosing."

Former George W. Bush administration national security official and current Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass wrote the same thing in August of 2009. And there are many more academics, Members of Congress, journalists, and average Americans who are discomfited by the deployment of military forces in Afghanistan at a cost of more than $100 billion/year in a country with a GDP of $14 billion.

Michael Steele has a habit of rounding corners in a way that gets him into trouble -- but on this issue, Steele reflects the views of a significant number of Americans in both political parties. While there is bipartisan support for the war, there is also bipartisan opposition to it.

The DNC needs to temper its "gotcha criticism" of Steele. Spokesman Brad Woodhouse said that Steele was "betting against our troops and rooting for failure in Afghanistan."

This is a distortion of what Steele was proffering. But what concerns me about the DNC comments is the exploitation of the complex and challenging Afghanistan War as a measure of one's patriotism, or support for the Pentagon -- in which the White House and Democrats desperately want to show they are better at than the Republicans.

That's not a smart national security posture. Embracing wars, deferring to generals, or giving the Pentagon everything it wants is the opposite of leadership.

Presidents and great leaders in the House and Senate sculpt the Pentagon and have made tough choices about what the U.S. military should be designed to do and what it should be held back from.

This knee-jerk criticism of Michael Steele is wrong-headed by the Dems -- and all too predictable from neoconservatives like Bill Kristol, who seem to thrive on escalating the number of US troops fighting abroad.

In many ways, Steele's comments were the more judicious because of the concern that the U.S. may be engaged in a war that breaks the military's back. The recklessness is Kristol's -- and the hubris the DNC's.

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note. Clemons can be followed on Twitter @SCClemons